Israel’s severe restrictions on the Gaza Strip cause immense hardship for families where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a resident of Gaza. Israel completely prohibits any entry into Israel of the spouse from Gaza, so members of these families can only fulfill their right to family life in Gaza, within the framework of Israel’s “divided families” procedure. Under the procedure, children of such families (who are also Israeli citizens) may stay in Gaza subject to renewable permits, but only until they turn 18. Once they become adults, these children are prohibited from living in Gaza or even visiting (unless they themselves marry a resident of Gaza).

The organizations stress in the petition that the age limit set in the procedure means that at the age of 18, children of “divided families” are suddenly and completely torn from their families, their home and their whole social environment. Israel imposes a sweeping ban on the entry of Israelis into the Gaza Strip, except in cases it defines as “humanitarian and exceptional”. Currently, adult children can only request a permit to enter Gaza in the case of a parent’s severe illness requiring hospitalization or their funeral. The implications of the “divided families” procedure are, therefore, that 18-year-olds are required to part from their parent indefinitely, perhaps forever.

The organizations added that recently, the severe violation of the children’s right to family life has been extended; in several cases, the Israeli military rejected applications for permits to stay in Gaza filed on behalf of 17-year-olds, on the preposterous grounds that by the time the Israeli authorities would process the request, the children would become adults.

Attorney Aaron Miles Kurman of HaMoked who represents the organisations in this case emphasized that, “Basic human rights, such as that of a child to spend time with his or her parents, do not carry expiration dates. However, for nearly an entire generation, Israel has revoked the right of its own citizens and residents to spend time with their Gazan parents – except in the most exceptional of circumstances – upon their 18th birthday. This inhumane policy, which severs the physical ties between parents and their adult children, must be abolished.”

To read the petition (Hebrew), click here.